FilAm Kodiak performing the tinikling. Kayla Desroches/KMXT
This Saturday, Kodiak celebrated the 75th anniversary of its incorporation as a city. Residents came to sample food from the potluck, see performances from local groups, and to enjoy each other’s company.
At the anniversary celebration, people enjoy a community pot-luck inside the Baranof Park Ice Rink. It’s not icy right now, of course. Instead, there are tables full of food from stir-fry to muffins with a line of people waiting to get to them. The atmosphere is cheerful and residents have good things to say about the city. Former fisherman and current real estate agent, Grant Shields is at the event with his family and says he’s been a Kodiak resident for longer than they expected.
“I love it. We were on the five year plan for thirty years now. It kinda grows on you. We’ve stayed here – it’s been real good to us.”
“What’s the five year plan?”
“Well, we were gonna be here for five years, make a whole bunch of money and leave, but that was a long time ago.”
He says Kodiak sticks together.
“The community for one thing, we’re all on an island, and that’s kinda turns back on the navy ‘we’re all in the same boat.’ And so this community really rallies together for events like this or for the Chiniak fire. They really stand together and really come out and help each other when there’s a need for it.”
A more recent Kodiak addition, Michelle Faumui, moved from Kenai four years ago, and grew up in Los Angeles. She says it doesn’t take long to immerse yourself in the community here, and that the city is diverse.
“I was brought up in that, and it just brings that whole cultural family feeling and it just immerses everybody. Everyone just blends in. I like that.”
Later, speakers step up to a podium to share the history of Kodiak and their own stories. One person to do that is 77-year resident, Bob Johnson, who says Alaska was a territory when he and his mother first took a steamship into Kodiak. They were sailing north to join his father, who Johnson says was the first surgeon to live and work in town. He describes the scene of their arrival in April of 1938.
“As we approached town, we saw houses on the right, scattered on the shore – a few, not many – and we approached a narrow passageway and the captain blew two shrill whistles on the boat to notify the town that we were coming and when we got close enough to see, we could see a dock full of people, absolutely crowded with people.”
And as Johnson speaks on one side of the park, on the other side, artist Bonnie Dillard leads a workshop to make marine debris animals for the Capitol Christmas tree project. 15-year-old Chellarae Nugent is crafting a jellyfish.
“We’ll cut off this bottle that was kind of laying here for a round top and then I made a bunch of holes in it with this hole-maker thing. It’s kind hard because it’s plastic, but now I’m hanging legs off of it. I really like jellyfish. I do know this one type can revert back to its polyp stage and then grow up again.”
Back in the skating rink, dancers from the Filipino American Association of Kodiak perform a traditional Filipino dance, the tinikling, named after a bird and styled after the way it walks between reeds of grass and tree branches. Dancers step between a pair of bamboo poles as two people separate them and snap them together again. It appears to take both rhythm and speed not to get your feet trapped.
The performances today demonstrate the diversity that Faumui spoke about earlier. Kodiak is an environment where different cultures can join together at the city’s anniversary celebration and share their culture as a part of that city.